Opening Night - Greasepaint and Stage Lights - Theatre Radio Show

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Opening Night

Opening Night (Sheridan Smith)
Gielgud Theatre - West End
(Review Complete)

The set was simple but so effective and a great use of space to show different scenes. When I entered the auditorium, I could see through a red curtain that was drawn and we could see the backstage set behind. I feel this portrayed the contrast between backstage and the wonders we see as an audience.
The show had a constant use of a large projection screen which was showing live close-up footage of the actors/actresses on stage. I really liked this as I showed the raw emotions in their facial expressions for all to see not just those nearer the front of the audience.

The show starts back stage of a play called 'the second woman' and the audience are introduced to the majority of the characters. Sarah, played by Nicola Hughes, the writer of the play. Manny, the director, played by Hadley Fraser. The producer David, played by John Marquez. Myrtle, played by Sheridan Smith who is the star of the play and Maurice, played by Benjamin Walker who is the co-star and to make the plot thicker the ex-partner of Myrtle. All portrayed their characters brilliantly.

The plot quickly develops into a preview performance of the play, where a tragedy happens and this is where the audience are introduced to Nancy, a 17-year-old super fan of Myrtle. The action here occurs stage left and therefore the audience on the far right were leaning over to see what was happening and some appeared to have missed it.

The complexity of the relationships between each character was portrayed well. There is conflict between Mrytle and Sarah, due to Myrtle not wanting to be portrayed as an aging woman and the script written by Sarah did the opposite in her eyes. The story centres mostly around Mrytle being combative and deviating from the script in an attempt to maintain her youth, with the help of Nancy!
There is obvious conflict between ex-partners Myrtle and Maurice due to the personal relationship breakdown. The attraction of Gus, played by Jos Slovick, towards Myrtle (which is not reciprocated). The lust between Myrtle and Manny and the turmoil this causes his wife Dorothy, played by Amy Lennox to name a few.

The plot and development of the characters was a little confusing and slow if I'm honest especially during the first act, however i feel this is due to the script and not the characterisation. At the interval I could overhear similar conversations and opinions. It was a shame that I saw that a number of audience members did not return for Act two. I am pleased that I did remain as the second act was much better and the characters journeys began to make sense and their stories became more apparent.
The portrayal of the struggles with mental health and stresses of putting on a Broadway show was brilliantly done - made even more effective with the use of the video links. I can honestly say I felt every emotion with the characters especially Myrtle's.
This was highlighted by the use of strobe lighting during the song 'said for being young' however the use was a little too heavy and it made seeing what was happening difficult than it needed to be. Unfortunately, the dramatic scene of Myrtle's breakdown was also stage left which made viewing for the far-right hand side of the audience hard in person however the cameras did follow her so there was the link feed to view.

The score by Rufus Wainwright flowed nicely throughout the show and had some catchy melodies. A favourite being the song 'magic' which showed the playful side of Myrtle's character that she was desperate not to lose. The harmonies during duets and especially when all four women sang 'the second woman' were beautiful.

There were a couple of occasions where the projection footage was pre-recorded and the actor on stage would have to make sure they are moving in the exact same way. It didn't work as well as it should of in my opinion and there was a time during a song by Gus where the timing was completely out. If this was done deliberately then it was completely lost on me and I just saw it as an error.

All in all, I enjoyed this show but feel the first act was too slow and that's a shame as it ultimately lost members of the audience.

Reviewers:  Stephanie J. and Hannah F.
Greasepaint and Stage Lights

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